Wollemi Pine, Holotype specimen of Wollemia nobilis W.G. Jones, K.D. Hill & J.M. Allen 1995

Specimen: Holotype specimen of Wollemia nobilis W.G. Jones, K.D. Hill & J.M. Allen 1995

Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney, Australia

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june1_small.gifSometimes called the ‘dinosaur tree’ or ‘living fossil’, the Wollemi Pine is certainly one of the greatest botanical discoveries of our time.

In September 1994, David Noble, an officer with the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, was walking in a narrow canyon of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area when he came across a species of tree he didn’t recognise. He had discovered the ancient Wollemi Pine, known scientifically as Wollemia nobilis.

The dramatic discovery of an evolutionary line thought to be long extinct is even more remarkable with these tall and striking trees growing only 150 km from Sydney, the largest city in Australia. Fossils show that this genus once grew over much of eastern Australia and possibly on the other southern continents, about 90 million years ago. Its relatives, the hoop pines and kauris, are still widespread across these landmasses.

june2_small.gifThere is a great deal to learn about this rare plant to ensure its survival in the wild and its successful cultivation. Major research projects are underway, involving staff of the Botanic Gardens Trust in collaboration with other institutions. We now know, for example, that individual stems can be as much as 350 years old.

The worldwide demand for the Wollemi Pine has been enormous. Research into the horticultural development of the species is being conducted at the Botanic Gardens Trust’s Mount Annan Botanic Garden.